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The tale of Teddy’s tail

17 September, 2006

Teddy has a greasy tail. It used to be like a bushy pennant when he held it up, the epitome of what a Maine Coon’s tail should be, but some months ago, the fur on it started going lanky and getting matted.

I thought at first it was stud tail, which is a condition that affects both un-neutered and neutered cats (both male and female). In stud tail, sebaceous glands located at the base of the tail go into overdrive (possibly due to hormones) and produce waxy secretions. These secretions are used to mark their territory. Sometimes stud tail secretions can clog up the hair follicles, giving the cat a case of blackheads … on the tail!

I did peek, but I could see nothing waxy about Teddy’s tail. Nor were there any blackheads. It was just oily.

I managed to cut off some of the mats, and I did try washing his tail with a bit of dishwashing liquid and water on a kitchen towel, but got as far as rubbing it on the oily spot before calling it a day: Teddy is very proud of his tail and was prepared to defend it with tooth-and-claw. Hey, I would be protective of my rear end too if some human sidled up to me with a hand behind her and grabbed my bum.

I thought I would ignore the problem, hoping it would go away. Needless to say, the oily patch spread, down the tail and next thing I knew, Teddy must have overgroomed and pulled hanks out.

Something would have to be done. I’d read about a product from the US, called “Goop” which was a stain remover and hand-cleanser. Breeders swear by it as the no.1 product for greasy coats and STUD TAIL. So I bought some.

Today, the sun was shining, and the BBC said that it was 25 degrees C outside. Ah … the perfect day to wash a cat’s tail.

I volunteered hubby to help out. It would be quick, I told him. And he had the easy job. All he had to do was hold Teddy in the bath while I covered his tail with Goop, and then rinse it off. Five minutes max.

As usual, the plan looked better on paper.

Teddy went trustingly into my husband’s arms and he purred at us while we talked soothingly to him.

Then he saw the bathtub and the look on his face! Quickly, hubby put Teddy down on the towel at the bottom of the bathtub and caught hold of Teddy’s scruff but Teddy started getting out. In the end, hubby had to hold Teddy’s front paws while I held on to his scruff. At the same time, by some feat of prestidigitation I managed to smear a huge dollop of Goop into his tail and started working it in. I turned on the water and started to rinse, but Teddy tucked his tail under him, so I ended up washing most of his rear end.

I think the part that got to both hubby and me was when Teddy started howling. Yes, cats can howl too. “Ahroooooo … ahrooooo” is the closest I can come to describing it, delivered on an ascending scale, amplified by the amazing concert-hall acoustics of the bathroom. After that I couldn’t finish washing him fast enough.

Teddy only managed to scratch hubby once. In case you’re thinking hubby was a bit of a wimp, Teddy weighs about 13 lbs and is large and powerful, the size of a small dog.

“Armour” and “next time you take charge of the end with the teeth” were heard muttered as I dried Teddy, or attempted to.

goop1 Hubby is now recovering on the sofa, exhausted. Teddy has been given a catnip cigar and is similarly zonked out. I’m writing this as a substitute G&T.

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19 comments

  1. Did the Goop stuff work though?


  2. Hi snugpug! Not sure really – it’s looking a little cleaner and fluffier, but either he’s pulled out quite a bit of it or it’s still greasy because it’s not as full as it used to be. Maybe I didn’t rinse enough? You’re supposed to shampoo after using Goop and I didn’t – I think maybe I made a serious error there. I just rinsed well after using Goop.

    I don’t know if I want to relive the moment again at a later date. I’ll see how his tail does this week.

    Thanks for asking!


  3. When you’re brave enough to redo this, try wrapping a bath towel round Teddy’s front torso, including his legs. Hubby might get less scratches this way. If Teddy really struggles, heck, take a really big towel and wrap the whole cat with just the tail bit showing. And have a few G&Ts — before and after.

    Good luck!


  4. Hmm … might just try that. Except that we had to stand him in the bath, and if we wrap him up his legs wouldn’t be able to support him . Maybe we have to make him lie down in the bath?


  5. The wrap-the-animal-up trick is pretty good for uncooperative pets. Thing is, if he’s wrapped up, he’s less likely to cooperate by standing up in the bath. You could sit on the edge of the bath holding him, or with him on your lap. You’d get wet but however you do this, you’d get wet anyway. Or how about doing it at the kitchen sink with most of his bulk on the counter?


  6. Just wondering..our kitty has been “diagnosed”with stud tail. He has brown flaky stuff in his tail fur too. Did you experience this?


  7. Hi Susan, I’ve e-mailed you directly with this reply:

    ******
    Dear Susan,

    Thank you for posting. When Teddy had stud tail, his tail was greasy about 1/3 of the way up, and the fur stuck together and clumped and later hanks of his tail fell out because he overgroomed the sticky bits. He didn’t have the brown flaky stuff. By
    “brown flaky stuff” do you mean like dandruff? There’s different degrees of stud tail, and I’ve read that sometimes the secretions dry to produce scales
    and crusting.

    I think depending on the degree of stud tail, there are different treatments:

    These include:
    – shampooing with a degreaser like Goop or Jerob’s Pre-cleaning creme
    – cleaning with an antiseptic solution (if there is inflammation of the skin)
    – clipping away the fur

    Here are some articles I have found very handy in understanding stud tail:

    http://www.provet.co.uk/Petfacts/healthtips/studtail.htm
    http://www.pandecats.com/x/stud-tail-remedy.htm
    http://www.fabcats.org/acneandstudtail.html

    Do you live in the US or the UK?

    If in the UK, you can buy Jerob’s Pre-cleaning creme from Smylee Pets (http://www.smyleepets.co.uk/) and Goop from Jamcusa Maine Coons (http://www.jamcusa-maine-coons.co.uk/)

    If there is inflammation of the skin and maybe even little spots, then you
    may need to use antiseptic – your vet should be able to help.

    It’s definitely worth shampooing the tail because if you don’t get rid of the stud tail, your kitty’s fur might drop out.

    By the way: is your kitty an entire cat or has he been neutered? Stud tail tends to occur more in entire cats.

    Best wishes


  8. Sent by Susan in reply:

    *****
    Rona,

    Thank you for the information. Razzle, our kitty is about 10 months old and we adopted him from a shelter so he is just recently neutered. His tail didn’t start looking funny until about a week ago after we gave him a bath. The “brown stuff” on his greasy tail is flakey. You have to pull away his fur to see the flakes though. The vet confirmed the stud tail and gave us a medicated wash to do 2 times a week. Hope it isn’t something that we will have to do indefinetly. Do you have to wash Teddy’s tail all of the time? This is the 1st long haired cat I have ever had. He is the sweetest baby and we love hime to pieces, but boy does he shed!! He looks similar to Teddy. Have you ever had Teddy groomed? Thanks again for the information. It is very helpful.

    Sincerely,

    Susan


  9. Dear Susan,

    Great to hear from you!

    I only washed Teddy’s tail once. He was neutered at the age of 8 months, and his stud tail happened after the neutering which puzzled me at that time as I thought it only happened to entire cats. I’ve since read that stud tail can occur with neuters as well.

    The stud tail lasted several months, but I only took it seriously when his fur started falling out. That’s when me and my hubby shampooed his tail. We didn’t do as good a job as we should have – we should have let the Goop stay on his tail for at least 10 to 15 mins and then should have shampooed twice, but Teddy hated the bath, the shower, the water, the shampoo, being held … so we never did it again. The stud tail cleared up by itself after that and he now has his lovely bushy tail again.

    Razzle sounds lovely – it could be that because he was neutered so late, at 10 months that’s why he developed stud tail. Now that you’ve neutered him, perhaps it’ll clear up.

    Teddy doesn’t shed much really (and at the moment it’s winter), his coat is quite shaggy. I’ve had him groomed once before, by a professional cat groomer – this was when he was a young kitten of about six months. She bathed him and dried him with a professional dryer. She has retired since and there aren’t many cat groomers in London, so I haven’t had him professionally-groomed since.

    Cat shedding is quite normal, but is Razzle’s shedding excessive? There are many reasons for excessive shedding. It tends to be seasonal – is Razzle an indoor kitty (in a centrally-heated house)? Shedding is more obvious in spring and autumn.

    It helps to groom Razzle regularly, even daily, to remove the excess fur. If you can get Razzle to a professional cat groomer, that might help too.

    I would also look at diet. Sometimes adding fish oil (not cod liver oil which is too strong) to the cat’s food helps with keeping fur healthy.

    If I come across any more tips on how to deal with stud tail I’ll let you know.

    Best wishes,
    Rona


  10. Hello,

    I just wanted to share a bit of information with any U.S. readers. Goop is sold in many auto part stores, but if you can’t find any another alternative is GOJO hand cleaner. GOJO is also quite common in auto part stores and even Wal-Mart. It’s functionally identical to Goop as far as I can tell (I’ve used both to treat stud tail with equally positive results).

    In my personal experience I’ve found that if you can lather the tail and the base of the spine right before the tail (that magical place that most animals like to have scratched ^_^) for at least 10-15 minutes before rinsing/shampooing/rinsing you may see better results. Also I’ve found that repeating this in a couple of days can help as well.

    My previous Maine Coon tom Lazarus had his first bout of stud tail when he was about 2 years old and it wasn’t until I tried using the Goop a little further up the base of his spine and to either side of the spine (about 3 inches 7 to 8 centimeters) that I noticed a big difference. Also I should note that even if you are able to treat the stud tail it may return. Lazarus had 3 bouts in 18 years and were all cleared up within a week or two with either Goop or Gojo.

    As far as the water troubles I’m afraid I have no advice for you as I’ve been incredibly fortunate in that all of my cats have loved bath time after only a couple kitten baths. One thing all of them have particularly loved (once they get to the point where they’re comfortable standing in the water ^_^) is pouring warm water down their spine starting at about the shoulder level almost like rinsing a child while giving them a bath. If your cat is not at least somewhat comfortable standing in water I would not recommend this. If your cat is fairly tolerant to bath time however they may like it.

    I hope my own experiences with stud tail can help someone!

    Also this is a wonderful site and I must say you have beautiful cats. I’ve partial to Maine Coons almost all of my life as Laz was a childhood pet got to admit Maya is a gorgeous girl! Especially the acrobatic photos.

    Thanks again for a great site,

    -David-


  11. Hi David,

    Thank you for your kind words about my blog, and many thanks for sharing your experience with stud tail!

    I think your advice about the importance of shampooing the base of the spine is really good.

    I’ve never heard of Gojo, but the UK is always behind in terms of new products for pets – you are so lucky in the US to have such a wide range of pet care products.

    Unfortunately Teddy wouldn’t stay still long enough to have the Goop on for 10 mins. He struggled and howled until our nerves frayed and we shampooed and rinsed him as fast as we could. Fortunately, the stud tail hasn’t returned.

    I think if I’d bathed him regularly as a kitten maybe he would have grown to like water. My current litter of kittens went to a home where they are bathed about twice a month – the boy kitten has really fluffy pantaloons and gets stuff stuck on his bum (you know what I mean). So they love the water! Not so much the bath tub, but the shower. Amazing.

    Your Lazarus sounds wonderful – do you have a website with his photos? Did you ever show him?

    Best wishes,
    Rona


  12. i very much prefer bath towels that are made of cotton or polyester, they are very soft and easy to dry-:”


  13. Thank you so much for posting this on your website. I was able to pick up your website with GOOGLE and was so happy. My male cat “Timber” has what I believe is Stud Tail. We adopted him 2 months ago from a shelter and was told he was 1 year 1 month. He was recently neutered. When we brought him home, I noticed a “knot on his tail” and some greasy substance. I thought it was oil from something he rubbed in before coming to the shelter. As soon as he was well from being neutered and we could give him a bath, we did. The substance didn’t come out. I ended up cutting the majority of it out. It was sad because he has Coon tail. Anyway – it’s been 2 months since we took him home and it’s still there. We gave him another bath earlier this week and really concentrated on his tail. It’s better – but after reading this article I am CONVINCED it’s Stud Tail. Looks like I am off to find some GOOP and he is going to get another bath. I was happy to read it’s a not a permanent problem. Between this and summer here – he has lost so much hair. YIKES! Thankfully, I cannot see any red marks or sores. Thanks again for posting your experience.


    • Hi Connie,

      Thank you for reading my blog, and for your kind comment.

      I’m glad I could be of help.

      How is your Timber’s tail? Was he OK with you washing it with GOOP?

      Teddy didn’t get stud tail anymore after he was neutered. So hopefully your Timber’s tail will improve.

      Best wishes,


    • Hi Connie,

      Thank you for reading my blog, and for your kind comment.

      I’m glad I could be of help.

      How is your Timber’s tail? Was he OK with you washing it with GOOP?

      Teddy didn’t get stud tail anymore after he was neutered. So hopefully your Timber’s tail will improve.

      Best wishes,


      • Hi –

        I dressed in a long sleeved sweatshirt and my husband wore gloves. With a lot of patience, we were able to wash his tail with some cat soap. (I decided against the Goop…..but don’t recall why—maybe I didn’t have any in the house when I decided to wash it again?)

        Anyway, we brought “Timber” into our household May 1st. At that time he had the most beautiful full bushy tail. When I wrote to you, it was July 4th and his tail looked like it was on it’s way to being bald. It was so thin looking. I am happy to report that almost 3 months later, his tail is looking very good. Not quite back to normal, but I can certainly tell it won’t be much longer.

        I made a few changes in addition to the bath we gave him. I switched his food to one with that didn’t have “by products” listed as the first ingredient. I now also add a squirt of Grizzly’s Salmon Oil to his dry food each day, I don’t know what exactly helped, but I do know his tail is 80% better. It could have been stud tail, it could have been a problem with his food, it might have been he had a bad year with shedding. I will probably never know. I do know that he is staying on his current food and I will continue using the Salmon Oil. His whole coat is so thick and pretty. 🙂

        Thank you again for your article and checking in.

        Connie


      • Dear Connie,

        That is fantastic news. I am so glad for you. And for Timber.

        I’m so impressed that you dealt with the issues in different ways – through diet, and through the bathing.

        And oh my, you and your husband were brave to bathe Timber! Did you give your husband the end with the teeth?

        Thank you for sharing the good news and also the tips on how you dealt with the stud tail.

        Best wishes,


      • Did my husband take the end with teeth ….Are you kidding me? LOL He didn’t stay still long enough for one end to stay in one direction. ha ha Seriously – he kept trying to crawl out of the sink by keeping his back legs in the sink and sinking his front claws into my shoulders as he tried to crawl out of the sink using my shoulder skin for traction. VERY glad for the thick sweatshirt. My husband’s job was to keep detaching his front claws from my shoulder and back. LOL


      • Dear Connie,

        Ouch! Thank you for sharing that with me – it looks like our cats are all alike! I hope your shoulders have recovered!

        I think someone should come up with a range of kevlar clothing for cat bathers!

        Best wishes and good luck for future baths!



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